Rage of Poseidon
Anders Nilsen, 80 pgs, Drawn & Quarterly, drawnandquarterly.com, $29.95 CAN
Anders Nilsen’s follow-up to his decidedly introspective Big Questions anthology is a curious, often hilarious, and highly enjoyable collection of seven short vignettes. It’s a successful marriage of Christianity and Greek mythology, where the gods are brought down to our level through jealousy, emotional instability, and of course, sex.
In the first story (which is also the longest) Nilsen asks readers to place themselves in Poseidon’s shoes as he deals with the death of his son, the Cyclops, at the hands of Odysseus. Over time, Poseidon watches as the worth and impact of the Greek gods recedes and they are quietly forgotten. Many learn to adapt to the changing world—such as Eros, who runs the Internet, or Bacchus, who lords over Las Vegas and is responsible for “the invention and spread of an ever-expanding plethora of new intoxicants.”
The remaining tales skewer characters from both Christian and Greek doctrine, including Abraham, who offers to burn his son Isaac to prove his faith; Zeus, who makes love to a mortal in the form of a swan; and Prometheus, who is punished for stealing the flame of enlightenment. As the tales progress, the tone becomes increasingly irreverent and caustic; in the collection’s final tale, for example, Jesus comes on to Aphrodite in a bar like the spoiled son of a wealthy businessman. However, it was the fifth story — the tale of Noah told from God’s perspective, if God were a petulant teenager throwing a 40 days and 40 nights hissy fit — that drew the greatest laughs.
The art in Rage of Poseidon is minimalistic, done entirely as silhouettes and shadow portraiture. This approach, coupled with the book’s accordion-style construction, affords the title a certain classical charm; it still reads like a book should, but it feels intentionally delicate, designed to be an artifact. The final product is elegant and artful. (Andrew Wilmot)